The dreamer worked carefully. His long, delicate fingers moved surely over the drawings and notes, adding a detail here, and a flair there. The black pen in his hands flew from point to point, and he occasionally brought the tip down in an emphatic motion. His lean arms flexed under the white lights mounted over the sleek metal of the standing desk where he toiled. Some trick of the light made particles of dust or some other matter shimmer from time to time around the workspace. The skin around his blue eyes wrinkled up as he leaned down to check a detail. As the dreamer looked up, the stress lines in his forward relaxed for a moment.
“What next love?”
The muse threw her hair back over her shoulders, an unconscious motion, one she did dozens of times a day. Her right hand came up to her face, and she pursed her lips. From across the room, she opened her mouth, then paused a moment. Her face lit up in a smile more real than the world itself.
“Can we have a talking goat?”
The dreamer considered. He flipped through several of the large drawings, concentrating. His brow went back into furrowed mode, and the black metal pen began to dance in his fingers. The pen did a roll, and a dip and then spun around in the air with a faint whistling sound. The dreamer’s left hand caught the pen in midair, stilling it for a half second. His eyes blinked. The air around his workspace sparkled. The dreamer drew in a breath, and the metal pen came to life again, its dance resuming.
“Yes,” he said finally. “We can have a talking goat. But we can only have one.”
The pen continued its dance, and the dreamer looked up, his blue eyes piercing and serious.
“Will you keep him company? Will you make sure he is happy? A talking goat needs care you know.”
The muse stepped a half step closer to her dreamer. Her body arched, she leaned in, and her lips pursed again.
“Of course love.”
She looked at her lover, the dreamer, and smiled.
“I’ll go make us lunch.”
The muse sashayed her way out of the room.
The dreamer forced himself to look away from her retreating form, and bent his head and focused, which was his wont. On the pages of his standing desk, he plotted and planned. The pen became a whirling dervish as ink flowed from its ball point tip. An hour passed, and the muse came back into the room, bearing fresh tomato soup with basil grown in the muse’s garden, and fresh homemade flaxseed bread slices covered in ghee butter.
The dreamer walked over to their table by the window. It looked out on the rooftop garden, high above a large metropolis where everything stayed busy all the time.
The dreamer stared into his muse’s eyes, which sometimes looked green, and sometimes looked brown, depending on the light.
“I think the clouds are perfect today,” he said between bites of his flaxseed bread. He white teeth showed just a bit when he looked at the muse. They never did any other time. She made him different, somehow.
“The clouds are perfect today. Let’s put them in.”
So the dreamer did, as soon as he had finished lunch and kissed his muse on her pale forehead, and then on warm, receiving lips. It was his ritual. One of so very many he had developed since the two of them began plotting together against the reality in which they found themselves.
“I have to focus today. Our time is short, my love.”
The muse smiled, a bit sadly.
“I know love,” she said.
“After you garden, work on the list of who you want to bring, and then we’ll go to the oncologist’s office.”
The dreamer kissed his muse one more time, and bent to his task again. His hand, and the pen it held, came to life. His lips spewed up unconscious words, in an almost prayer like fashion. As the muse gardened, he built a world where her cancer was not killing her. He made forests for her, and wrote in special trees, old ones, with magnificently thick trunks that were thousands of years old. He planned the walks they would take, the ones where he could pretend to be astonished by the fact that both their names appeared together in the bark 50 feet above the ground.
The dreamer’s forehead dripped with sweat as he planned the view outside their hillside home. He labored especially intensely on the verdant greens in the grasses his muse would see out the windows of their underground home built into the hill, with the wall of windows facing east. The waterfall that came to life under the command of his mind and hand, armed only with his pen and imagination, flowed down the hillside and through the interior courtyard of the safe nest the two of them had talked so much about. That last retreat that they were going to flee towards.
Later, they went to the oncologist, and the muse was swabbed with alcohol and dosed. After, she was much braver than her dreamer, as he sobbed and held her while she threw up into the toilet. When her uncontrollable heaves finally stopped, and his eyes were clear enough for him to see, she looked up into them, and held his face.
“I love you,” she said. “I always will.” Unable to speak, he simply looked back.
The next day, it rained, and the dreamer and his muse slept in. She was sick, but well enough to hold on when he held her. They spent an hour just facing each other, eyes locked, in an easy embrace. Then he cooked while she slept the sleep of drug induced exhaustion. The dreamer came back into the room with her eggs and yoghurt, but she was too ill to eat anything. He cried, and she comforted him. She slept again.
He worked desperately. They were able to eat lunch together by the window.
“I’m almost ready love,” he said to her, later that evening.
She smiled through her pain, and her eyes came alive. Then, she had to sleep again.
He worked all night, and went through another ink cartridge. The drawer where he kept the spares was still mostly full. The dreamer worked frenetically, like a man possessed. He only stopped to check on the muse in their bed.
On a cold, blustery afternoon a few days later, the dreamer and the muse greeted their friends. She was pale, which was her normal, but also frail looking, which they did not associate her with.
Shaka, the poet, was the most visibly affected by how sick she looked. The group had not gathered in two months, and the muse was much changed.
“I’m so ready,” Shaka said, and gave the muse one of his great, big bear hugs full of pure love.
The small group gathered around the dreamer’s table.
Melanie, the tall, ethereal actress, and Matthew, her shorter, more intense partner, stood side by side as always, their bodies crackling with the electricity they generated in the inch between them.
Jennifer, the naturopath, wanted to say a few words, but the group shushed her.
“Time for that later,” said Ned, who had been a childhood companion to the dreamer, and who had once saved his life during a storm.
The dreamer looked at his muse, and then at each of their friends. His eyes, which were always engaging, seemed now to be pulling energy from each of these people he loved.
“Are all of you ready?”
They were. The dreamer opened the plain, unstained wooden door behind and to the left of his desk.
Jennifer forgot she wanted to give a speech in the light that came through from the other side. Starting with Ned, each of them went through in single file, except for the muse and her dreamer, who stepped through last, holding hands.
Several years later, under a pink sunset so beautiful that the muse wept with joy, the dreamer toasted his friends on the hillside.
“We have been here five years,” he said. The group toasted. “I love each of you with all my heart, and I want to thank you joining us on this wonderful voyage.”
“This world you made sure does have tasty grass,” said the goat. The group toasted, and the muse, who looked so full of joy she was about to burst, hugged Billy while he happily chewed grass. Then she kissed the dreamer on his lips. His eyes shone at first, and then welled with tears of happiness.
“Thank you,” she said. He said it back.
The music started, and everyone danced in the courtyard by the waterfall while the full moon watched.